A snarling traffic jam up to 1.5km long has greeted motorists travelling near Waipu today as police begin their programme of handing out car stickers which they hope will make travelling through the northern border checkpoints smoother.
Northland police today opened two locations where locals can obtain car stickers which are meant to ensure they can travel through the checkpoints between Northland and Auckland on Wednesday.
The pick-up spots are at a police van parked near the Waipu RSA and at the Dargaville Police Station.
A NZ Police spokesperson said they received an "overwhelming response to its sticker initiative today" with 2500 Northland motorists getting their cars fixed with the stickers.
But one Northlander – who was travelling through Waipu today – described a scene of traffic chaos.
"The line was at least 1.5km long," he said.
He was also mystified why the stickers were needed.
"I just assumed that by getting our vaccine passes we would be able to go through with no problems," he said.
"I couldn't care less about getting a sticker. It looks like this whole thing has been made up on the fly."
Another motorist posted on social media that the line was "several hundred cars deep" at Waipu.
One comment on the One Tree Point Grapevine wrote: "Long as queue in Waipu to get these check point sticker passes."
Real estate agent and auctioneer James Alexander - from Ray White Bream Bay - also posted a picture of the traffic line, with the message: "Last time I checked borders open Wednesday … if you're going to Waipu today hold off for a bit."
A NZ Police spokesperson said the aim of the initiative was to help locals who regularly travel on SH1, Uretiti or SH12 Maungaturoto, to pass through the upcoming checkpoints without unnecessary delay.
Because all available 2,500 stickers were fixed to the vehicles of local Northlanders who today showed proof of address, tomorrow's planned sticker event in Waipu will not go ahead.
"From next Wednesday, those who are not displaying a sticker should have their proof of address readily available at the checkpoints so they can proceed through them as quickly as possible," the police spokesperson said.
"We would like to thank those who took up the opportunity today."
A post on the Northland Police Facebook page on Friday stated: "Police have heard your concerns about the potential delays of the short-term checkpoints starting in Northland next Wednesday.
"To help Northlanders pass through the checkpoints as quickly as possible we are offering stickers that we will place on your vehicle to let our staff know you are local.
"If you travel regularly on SH1, Uretiti or SH12 Maungaturoto – where our checkpoints will be - come see us with your vehicle and we will put a sticker on it. One sticker per vehicle - sorry no takeaways for friends or whanau!"
The Waipu RSA site was to be open between 9am and 4pm today. Pick-ups from the Dargaville Police Station were from 11am-3pm.
"Depending on demand we may have more dates," the post said.
Two days ago, Northland's top cop urged locals passing through the police and iwi checkpoints to carry proof of address.
Northland District Commander Superintendent Tony Hill said it would help police – many from other parts of the country – wave locals north through the checkpoints that start on Wednesday.
"We appreciate residents of Northland are not wanting to be inconvenienced by the checkpoints so we will be doing our best to ensure they can be waved through and that traffic is not unnecessarily backed up."
But any Aucklanders aged 12 and over must have either a Vaccine Pass or a negative Covid test result from within the past 72-hours as per the Public Health Order, he said.
The locations of the checkpoints near Uretiti on State Highway 1 and on SH12 near Maungatūroto caused some angst for Kaipara residents living south of the border.
They feared they'd have to endure the same treatment and delays as visitors despite it being their own backyard.
Joint modelling between police and the Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency showed anywhere between 7000 and 12,000 vehicles a day traversed SH1 near Uretiti.
Tai Tokerau Border Control (TTBC) co-ordinator Rueben Taipari previously told the Northern Advocate the checkpoints would last until at least January 17 when the Government would review the country's traffic light settings.
Once these checkpoints are disbanded, police planned to carry out random checkpoints and spot checks daily throughout the region.
Hill said this was to ensure people were "moving about safely" and vulnerable communities stayed protected.
The locations of the checkpoints - which effectively cut Waipū, Langs Beach, Mangawhai, and Kaiwaka off from the rest of the region - were addressed by Hill in a statement to the Advocate.
"When deciding the location of the checkpoints, police have to take into account a range of factors including logistical and health and safety considerations."